|Full name||Martin Nwokocha Offiah|
29 December 1966 |
London Borough of Hackney, England
|Height||185 cm (6 ft 1 in)|
|Weight||91 kg (14 st 5 lb)|
|2000–01||Salford City Reds||45||23||0||2||94|
|Source: slstats.org, yesterdayshero.com.au, martinoffiah.co.uk|
Martin Offiah MBE (born 29 December 1966) is an English former professional rugby league footballer of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. A Great Britain and England national representative winger, due to his running speed he is nicknamed "Chariots" Offiah after the film Chariots of Fire. Offiah played for English clubs Widnes, Wigan, London and Salford, and in Australia for Sydney's Eastern Suburbs and St. George clubs. He scored 501 tries during his rugby league career, making him the third-highest try scorer of all time. Since retiring Offiah has also provided commentary for Sky Sports rugby league coverage and worked as a player agent.
Offiah was born in London to Nigerian parents, and attended Woolverstone Hall School near Ipswich, Suffolk, where he represented the school at fencing and played rugby and cricket. He played for Essex 2nd XI but soon realised his main talent was for rugby. At club level, he first played rugby union for Rosslyn Park and after starring on the Sevens circuit and for the Barbarians, there was talk of an England future.
Professional playing career
Offiah was spotted by Widnes coach Doug Laughton playing in the Middlesex Sevens and was "brought North" to play rugby league for the 1987–88 season. Alex Murphy had been interested in acquiring Offiah from rugby union, but the board of directors at St. Helens infamously referred to Offiah as an "uncoordinated clown" and the interest was not followed up with action. Within months, he became the most talked about winger since Billy Boston for his lightning speed and try scoring, and it was at Widnes where he forged his reputation as a devastating winger, helping the team win both the league championship and Premiership. He ended his debut season with 42 tries, making him the league's top try scorer, and also breaking the club record held by Frank Myler for most tries scored in a season. He received the Man of Steel award for his efforts, and was also rewarded with a place in the 1988 Great Britain Lions tour of Australasia, where he played in all three Tests of the Ashes series which was lost to Australia.
While on tour with the Lions, Offiah took part in a 100 metre match race at Wentworth Park in Sydney against Australian flyers Dale Shearer and John Ferguson (Ferguson replaced Greg Alexander who was forced to withdraw through injury). Confirming his standing as the fastest player in rugby league, Offiah easily won the race from Shearer and Ferguson.
In the 1988–89 season, Widnes won the Championship and Premiership for the second successive year, and Offiah was once again the league's top try scorer with 58 tries in 41 games. He then spent the summer in Australia playing for Eastern Suburbs. He scored a try on his NSWRL debut against Western Suburbs, and went on to score nine tries in 12 games for the club before returning to Widnes.
During the 1989–90 Rugby Football League season, Offiah played for defending champions Widnes on the wing in their 1989 World Club Challenge victory against the visiting Canberra Raiders. At Widnes Offiah had scored 181 tries in 145 games over 4 seasons.
Offiah joined Wigan in January 1992 for a world record fee of £440,000 (based on increases in average earnings, this would be approximately £868,000 in 2009). This figure remained a record for a total cash transfer until Wigan beat their own record, paying £450,000 for Stuart Fielden from the Bradford Bulls in 2006.
Playing in his regular Left Wing position, Offiah formed a devastating partnership with Gene Miles in his first season at Wigan scoring 30 tries in just 15 games including setting a new club record of ten in a single match against Leeds in the Premiership semi-final in May.
He was selected to go on the 1992 Great Britain Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand. Before the match against the Parramatta Eels at Parramatta Stadium, Offiah had a 100-metre match race against Eels winger Lee Oudenryn, a junior soccer product who had switched to league late and had only played 5 games for the Eels at that time. Offiah's standing as the fastest player in rugby league took a beating when Oudenryn won by half a yard, though rumours quickly spread that he had tanked to allow Lions team mates to collect after they had allegedly backed the bookies outsider Oudenryn to win.
A biography by David Lawrenson entitled Offiah: A Blaze of Glory was published in 1993.
Offiah played in four Challenge Cup wins, five Championship teams, three Regal Trophy wins and one Lancashire Cup victory. He twice won the Lance Todd Trophy at Wembley. His 90-metre solo try in the 1994 Challenge Cup Final win over Leeds is remembered as one of the finest ever seen in a final, but he made a habit of such runs during his career, scoring a similar try just weeks before against Castleford. After the 1993–94 Rugby Football League season Offiah travelled with defending champions Wigan to Brisbane, playing on the wing in their 1994 World Club Challenge victory over Australian premiers, the Brisbane Broncos.
In 1995, Martin Offiah's life story, a 30 minute documentary was produced and directed by Pogus Caesar for Carlton TV UK as part of the Respect TV series. Offiah was selected to play for England in the 1995 World Cup final on the wing but Australia won the match and retained the Cup.
Offiah made a total of 158 appearances for Wigan with another single appearance as a substitute. He scored more than a try a game, crossing the line 186 times. He also managed a goal and 3 drop goals thus scoring a grand total of 749 points for the club. He left the club in 1996 to return to the capital to play for London Broncos, but sent an open letter to the Wigan Observer thanking fans and the club for his time there.
When the game made the switch to summer rugby in 1996, Offiah played in only ten games before moving to the London Broncos. He was awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours 1997 and also played for London in their 1999 Challenge Cup final defeat against Leeds. After this he moved to Salford for the 2000 season, staying for two seasons. He finished his career with London Wasps in Rugby Union.
In 2004 Offiah was one of the celebrities who took part in the first series of the BBC's successful show Strictly Come Dancing, reaching fourth place with his partner Erin Boag. In 2005 alongside Natasha Kaplinsky, he hosted the one-off special, Strictly African Dancing.
He currently works as a pundit for Sky Sports rugby league coverage. He was a regular studio guest during the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, and he presents a weekly Super League round up on Sky Sports News.
Offiah has two sons, Tyler Beau and Phoenix Beau with his fiancee, model Virginia Shaw and lives in Ealing, West London.
In 2006 he appeared on a Reality TV Special of The Weakest Link, winning £10,050 and splitting the winnings with Danniella Westbrook. Only once in the game did Martin get a single vote, and statistically was the strongest link in round six. Offiah has also appeared on BBC quiz show Pointless twice, firstly with Chris Kamara, where they were booted off in the first round, the second time with cricketer Phil Tufnell where they made it all the way to the final leaving with the cash prize by getting a Pointless answer in the final round. Martin donated his £1,250 prize to the Joining Jack Charity.
- "Search 1761 to 2006 – Birth, Marriage and Death indexes". Findmypast.com. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
- Ali, Arif (1988). Third World Impact. Hansib Pub. p. 333. ISBN 9781870518048.
- Chowdhury, Saj (2012-10-23). "BBC Sport - Martin Offiah says football could learn from league to stop racism". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
- Wilson, Andy (15 September 2001). "Offiah bows out with grace". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
- Hadfield, Dave (8 September 2009). "Offiah seals deal for record-breaking teen". The Independent (London). Retrieved 12 May 2010.
- "Gareth Thomas completes switch from union to Wales rugby league side Crusaders". telegraph.co.uk (London). 5 March 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
- "Overjoyed Offiah drops quit hint". BBC Sport. 1 July 2001. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- "Martin Offiah MBE". The Rugby Football League. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- Rowlands, David (23 June 1991). "'Chariots' Offiah Sinks Easts With A Hat-trick". Sydney Morning Herald. p. 45.
- "Widnes Player Biog". Rugby.widnes.tv. Retrieved 2014-07-29.
- "Measuring Worth – Relative Value of UK Pounds". Measuring Worth. 31 December 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
- "RECORDS" at wiganwarriors.com
- Lawrenson, David (1993). Offiah : A Blaze of Glory. St Lucia, Queensland, Australia: University of Queensland Press. ISBN 978-0-7022-2541-3.
- Martin Offiah Official Website
- Martin Offiah Wigan Career Page on the Wigan RL Fansite.
- England Statistics at englandrl.co.uk
- Great Britain Statistics at englandrl.co.uk
- Statistics at rugbyleagueproject.org
- Martin Offiah – featured on 100 Great Black Britons
- Wasps profile
- Crooks in trouble
- When Britain defeated the Aussies
|Rugby League Transfer Record
Widnes to Wigan